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Avalanche aim to continue streak against Panthers

Just nine days ago many thought the Colorado Avalanche should be preparing for the draft and not the postseason.

What a difference a week makes.

The Avalanche, mired in a slump that went back to early December, have suddenly started winning again. In the span of two weeks Colorado has beaten Winnipeg (twice), Chicago and Nashville on the road -- on back-to-back nights -- and Vegas.

Colorado now looks a lot like the team that started the season 17-7-5 and sat atop the Western Conference.

"We kind of looked ourselves in the mirror," Nathan MacKinnon said after Saturday's win over the Predators. "We had to make a decision if we wanted to push for the playoffs or be a lottery team. We haven't achieved our goal yet. Obviously we have 20 games left, but we're on the right track so it feels good."

The Avalanche want to keep that good feeling so there can be no letdown in the upcoming two home games that start with the Florida Panthers on Monday night. The Panthers are coming off a win against Los Angeles on Friday in which goaltender Roberto Luongo notched his 484th career victory to tie Ed Belfour for third place on the all-time NHL list.

"I don't know what else you could say about the guy. He's world-class through and through, most humble guy I've ever met," Florida forward Vincent Trocheck said after the win over the Kings. "It's phenomenal to see him on a daily basis. It feels like he's breaking a new record every day."

Colorado will see a familiar face Monday night. Forward Jamie McGinn, who played three-plus seasons with the Avalanche, scored in the win over Los Angeles. It was just his second game of the season following a back injury.

"I'm just taking it all in right now," McGinn said. "Worked hard to get back, so it was nice to get rewarded (Saturday). It feels good for sure."

McGinn will face his former team that's on a roll. Colorado had just five wins in two months before reeling off four in a row and wins in five of its last six. Coach Jared Bednar split up his top line to spread out the scoring, and it has seemingly paid off. Friday night, J.T. Compher and Carl Soderberg had two goals each in a 5-3 win over Chicago, and Saturday afternoon, just 18 hours after beating the Blackhawks, MacKinnon scored twice in the 5-0 win over the Predators.

The Avalanche have scored 20 goals during their four-game winning streak but just as impactful is the improved goaltending. Colorado had just one shutout in the first 60 games but has two in the last four. Saturday it was Philipp Grubauer blanking Nashville with 38 saves.

It was his first start in nearly three weeks due to the stellar play of Semyon Varlamov, and he made the most of it.

"I'm sure he's been frustrated not being able to get in the net, and he did the best thing he could. He played his best game of the year," MacKinnon told reporters of Grubauer. "Obviously (Varlamov) has been awesome for us and it's great to have two goalies that are very capable. We're going to need them to be our best players, and they have been lately, so it's been great."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 24, 2019

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